Rib injuries can be very painful. Rib subluxation — also called slipping rib syndrome — occurs when a rib partially dislocates. Yoga can help with rib subluxation in two ways: by reducing stress caused by your injury and by stretching and strengthening muscles that support your ribs.
Yoga for Ribs
Your ribs have muscles between them, called the intercostals. Yoga poses stretch these muscles in both the front and back of your rib cage, as well as muscles in your abdomen, back and shoulders that also connect to your ribs.
1. Cobra Pose
HOW TO DO IT: Lie face down on the floor. Stretch your legs back, and place your hands flat on the ground under your shoulders with your elbows tucked next to your body. Press the tops of your feet and thighs firmly into the floor. While inhaling, straighten your arms to gently lift and stretch your chest off the ground.
Squeeze your shoulder blades together and gently push your side ribs forward. Hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds while breathing slowly. Return to the starting position during an exhale.
2. Extended Puppy Pose
The extended puppy pose stretches back and shoulder muscles attached to one or more ribs. These muscles can be sore due to rib subluxation.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin on all fours. Slowly walk your hands out as you stretch your chest toward the floor, keeping your hips over your knees and your arms shoulder-width apart. While exhaling, press your hands down, stretching your arms out in front while pulling your hips toward your heels. Be sure your elbows are not touching the ground.
Place your forehead on the floor and relax your neck, feeling the stretch in your spine. Hold this pose for 30 seconds to one minute. On an exhale, walk your hands in and return to a kneeling position.
The cat and cow poses can be performed individually or combined into one exercise by alternating between the two poses. The cat pose stretches the back of your rib cage, while the cow pose targets the front of your chest.
HOW TO DO IT: Begin on all fours with your hands in line with your shoulders and knees in line with your hips. Take a breath, then as you exhale, arch your back toward the ceiling and gently bring your chin toward your chest. This is the cat pose.
As you inhale, move into the cow pose by dropping your belly toward the floor and looking up toward the ceiling. Alternate these poses for five slow breaths.
Proceed With Caution
Although yoga can be beneficial for rib subluxation, stretching too far can worsen your injury. Perform yoga poses in a position that produces gentle stretching or pulling — but not pain — in your ribs and surrounding muscles.
See your doctor for an accurate diagnosis if you have chest pain. In some cases, it can be a sign of a life-threatening condition, such as a heart attack.